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Showing posts from 2020

10 Things I Am Still Grateful For, Plus a Few More

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 Seven years ago I wrote a post on Thanksgiving with a list of the things I'm grateful for.  Today, I am grateful for that list, because in this crazy mixed up totally effed up year, it's nice to see that some things remain true.  Actually, it's not just " some things " but the most important things -- those remain solid, constant, more true than ever.  I am still grateful for every single thing on this list, so I am reposting it, and adding a few wonderful things I am newly grateful for, since 2013.  Here's what I wrote in 2013: # # # I have only 16% power left on my laptop and I'm too tired and comfy to get up and find the power cord, so I better rip off a thankful list right quick.  And so: NPR .  My life would be less than it is without everyone at NPR.  Thank you from the bottom of my well-informed heart. Coffee .  My children would be in danger without coffee.  Thank you for keeping me sane, which in turn, keeps them safe. Good pillows .  Nothing fee

My First Beautiful Thing

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Cold kitchen, whistling kettle: the water is ready, the ground awaits. Now for the pour-over: watching steam rise, Chemex fill, and sparkly diamonds dance as the water settles and filters – suspends me every time. I lift the good, heavy pot from the gleaming chrome and pour. The warm, puddle-y sound, quiet but lifting, rising in pitch as the mug fills, is dark and swirling. A splash of cream and voila! At this early hour,  I've done my first beautiful thing.

I Recommend Remember When

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Parenting is hard.  There are many things I’ve gotten wrong over the past 20+ years, and I feel those failures acutely and often.  Some days, these people I am raising seem like a pack of cynics, a swarm of pessimists, a horde of disaffected youth.  My 16-year-old daughter said just yesterday: “We’re all just riding around on a giant rock. Nothing matters. There’s no point to anything.” Parenting Fail?  Teenage angst?  High School junior feeling deep in her core that final exams are cruel and unjust?  In weaker moments, I’m sure their negativity is all my fault. But on this fine, cold morning deep in the heart of 2020, the Marx Brothers might just prove me wrong.  Last night, the kids hopped on one of those fabulous memory trains, riding “Remember when…” moments endlessly through the evening.   Remember when all the girls slept on toddler mattresses lined up on a futon frame in their tiny bedroom not fit for three? Remember when the boys accidentally locked themselves in their own clos

Maybe Messy is What I Need Right Now

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Let’s face it, we are all exhausted at this point.  I call it the Coronelection Complex, and it’s hitting me hard. Texts from friends, zoom calls with family, and tweets from strangers all indicate that I’m not alone.  We are a weighed upon people, are we not?  One way Coronelection Complex is showing up for me is that I often feel like taking to my bed.  All I want to do is go to bed early and wallow.  Sometimes I read.  Sometimes I stare at a blank page with a pen in my hand. Mostly I doom scroll, against all my better judgment.  Very little feels like what my restless heart is actually looking for, but my bed and pillows keep calling.  And when I answer that call, all I want to do is shut the rest of the world out. My family has other ideas. It’s as if my lying down in a stupor sends a radar signal throughout the house: BUG MOM.  IT’S TIME TO BUG MOM.  The dog gets the signal too.  It doesn’t take long before beating hearts both human and canine descend on my bedroom to create mayhe

So Today Was Hard

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Today was hard, which started two days ago.  Two days ago, we spent $1400 on car repairs. All needed, all good, all regular wear and tear, and we did a whole bunch of things all at once. It still hurt.  Last night, someone stole the catalytic converter off of one of our cars. This is the second time this has happened to us, the first was several years ago. I was awakened last night to the awful sound of the saw bad guys use to snatch the catalytic converter from a car's undercarriage. One quick growl-whirr got me up and to the window, wondering who the hell was using machinery at 2 am. On my way to the window, I heard the second growl-whirr , for just a bit longer, and realized what was happening. Pulling the curtain back, I couldn't see anything right in front of the house, but then a car sped past my window coming from the left, from where our two Priuses (Pri-ii?) were parked out of my line of sight.  Rick went outside and started all of our cars -- successfully. So

Simplest of Things, Lost and Found

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Last night, I made dinner! One might think, what with a pandemic on and all, that I'd be doing this a lot.  One would be wrong.  In the beginning of this...oh, words escape me...let's go with DEBACLE...I did alright with the whole planning meals and shopping for them and cooking them steps.  All that has fallen off dramatically. This is not to say we are not eating. In fact, in a stroke of genius brought on by laziness (perhaps the true mother of invention), I roped my daughters into each cooking once a week, and they are mostly doing it, and doing it incredibly well. So we are at least eating good meals two to three times a week, plus our usual once a week take out.  Add in some leftovers, and we're easily covered for about five nights a week.  Cereal, toast, and grazing take us the rest of the way, so what do they even need me for, right? Well, after several weeks of shirking all cooking duties, I must admit, I was feeling a little...shirky.  So, I waded back into the rot

Three Minutes

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My friend Janelle texted me the other day: "Do you have three minutes?" I did not, at that precise moment, because I was driving. When I got to my destination – a soccer field, of course, where Little T was experiencing the joy of "pod" training (thank you COVID) – I texted Janelle to let her know that I now had three minutes.  Next, she asked if I was in a quiet place.  Yes, I told her, for once, I was in a quiet place, not surrounded by my boisterous, busy family. I was in for a treat. She sent me a link to this video and told me to listen: Three minutes of sheer beauty and joy! Such a treat, so welcomed in this time of chaos and anxiety. I have listened to it several times since and shared it with friends and family.  But in addition to bringing me real joy, this brief three-minute video has also taught me some uncomfortable truths about myself that are not at all joyful.   The first time I listened to it, I couldn't focus on it. I immediately loved it, to be

Listen

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In my work, we talk a lot about the importance of listening. I write about it in grant proposals; we talk about it in team meetings; we hold it up as a core organizational value. We know that the act of listening is essential to the processes of teaching and learning: transformative education isn't possible without it.   As a parent, I know the importance of listening. Easily 80% of all family arguments are, at their crux, essentially about someone not listening to someone else. Mom gets mad because a kid didn't listen to her instructions and therefore didn't do a chore right for the fifth or fiftieth time in a row (hypothetically speaking); siblings fight with each other because one of them ignores the other's wishes or rights.  The wise observer can see that if these people would stop and truly listen to each other, the tension would ease, hurt feelings would heal, love and kindness would have space to grow. Right now in our country, listening is more important than e

Sign of the Times

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Sometimes, simply walking out the front door can be overwhelming. Say, like, on day #66 of Shelter in Place which also happens to be day #TooMany of a godforsaken migraine that has had me hiding in a darkened room like a gothy troll. As in: today.  I haven't been outside in two days because sunlight has been so hard to take.  But the love of my life has been pouring himself into our garden these days and I wanted to support him, so I ventured out cautiously to see his handiwork.  I was not prepared for the many ways in which the world would bombard me. First , it was just too bright out there, and all that glorious light hurt my head and eyes. While I expected the pain, I did not expect the anger -- which I definitely felt, sharp and sudden.  I was instantly furious because I love the outdoors and do not like it causing me pain and discomfort.  So there I was, walking down my front path with a little bit of rage. Second , Rick has done so much work! Seeing our beautiful g

Music Love

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what should I name her? Music is a fascinating teacher. The more I play this fiddle, and the more music I listen to, the more fascinated I become.  Today, as I was listening to music while riding my exercise bike, I felt like I was falling into a little musical portal. I was so captivated by sound, it felt like catching a glimpse of what improvisation or composing might be like, what understanding the language of music must be like. It amazes me that a musician knows exactly what sound she will hear if she plays a specific note.  And not as in, that right there is B flat, so I will hear a B flat.  As in, she knows the sound, can hear it in her head, before she plays it.  Maybe I'll get there someday. Also on my mind lately?  The fact that scales are miraculous. A scale is like an autopilot coach for my fingers: do enough of them, and my fingers seem to start doing them perfectly on their own.  I am in love with music.  Playing it, listening to it, thinking about it, havin

We Left Resentment At the Lake

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Yesterday, Tallulah and I went for a walk around Lake Merritt. We left at 8am, which apparently is excruciatingly early for a 13-year old person. The day before, she asked me if we could go for a hike. This being remarkable on many levels – not least of which the fact that she can barely tolerate my presence these days – I decided it had to happen. Then, by the time it did, she was just not that into me anymore. Ah, the difference a few short hours can make in the mother-daughter relationship. I had to coax her with avocado toast and throw in a stop for hot chocolate just to get her out of bed. And before she would peel back the covers, she wanted to know where we were going. I guess she had to weigh the destination against her comfy pillow and warm blankets.  I had been researching places we could go that I wasn't already tired of and that were still open during SIP -- most of the places I thought of were closed.  Then I thought of Lake Merritt, which I've loved on my walk

Blowing Stuff Up, Blowing Stuff Open

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The Flaggy Shore of Ireland Driving with my daughter the other day, she said: "I really don't want to become a grown-up." And in my mind, I answered her: Ahhh, daughter.  I hear you. This pandemic. The tragedy everywhere around us. Trump at his Trumpiest. The appalling behavior of other grown-ups and especially those in power. The shooting in Nova Scotia. The stories you hear on the news and in your parents' discussions about the state of the world.  It's all just too much, isn't it? My heart clenched when she said those words, as my mind unspooled in a stream of second-guessing.  Maybe we shouldn't watch Rachel every night and bring that daily dose of downer and despair into our home.  And we definitely need to be checking in with the kids more and seeing how they are processing the news about the coronavirus and everything else going wrong around the world.  What kind of support does this child need? What do they all need?  What have I missed,

If We Were Siblings

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Based on the news, my Twitter feed, and the depressing New Yorker articles I've been reading lately, I have come to the conclusion that life in the time of corona is marked by fear and mistrust. Americans do not trust each other, and without that trust, we will not stand.  We will be a house divided.  If we could fight like siblings, we would stand a chance, but we fight instead like strangers who cut each other off in traffic and give each other the finger as we blaze past with furious indignation oozing from the glares we leave behind. I wish we could fight like siblings.  Sure, we’d probably still flip each other the bird and we would definitely get just as enraged at perceived injustices and stupidity.  But maybe sometimes we would stick around to thrash it out too. ---- Everywhere I look, I see the ways in which we don't trust each other.  It's in the protestors who want to open the country back up, facing down the health care workers who want us to stay at h

Say Zoom One More Time

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I dare you.  Go ahead.  Whisper it or shout. Weave it into conversation.  See what happens. I can't be held responsible for the reflexive, bitter stream of vitriol that might come your way.  You have been warned. Don't get me wrong.  I've zoomed my way through a few delightful happy hours with friends. My office HR department hosted a lovely little virtual water cooler gathering that warmed my heart.  My fiddle teacher's band live-streamed a concert in place of one they had to cancel, and it made me happy.  And there's no question that I am able to work from home productively thanks in no small part to the wonders of teleconferencing. And yet.  My household participated in at least ten zoom meetings today, and we didn't make it to all of them.  With three "distance learners" and two "distance workers" -- none of whom have nearly enough distance from each other -- the bloom has officially faded from the rose of virtual meetings.  (We

Family In Place: Reality Check

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With Shelter-In-Place in effect, I have rushed to fill my social media with fun posts and photos about my family's response to this new reality.  The incredible responses I've seen from around the country and the world -- Italy's citizens singing to each other at their windows, friends hosting Yoga via Zoom, the endless hilarious memes that make us laugh -- have inspired me to be creative with my family and to focus on staying positive and motivated in the face of this daunting challenge.  This makes sense: we all need inspiration and motivation. But last night, my 17-year-old daughter said: "Mom, your social media posts are making it look like we are having fun with all of this." Good point.  It has not been fun.  There have been bright moments, and I'm proud of my kids for how they have managed things so far, but it has not been fun.  Here are some real moments from AIRY5 in the past few days: One kid, screaming at another: " STOP LOOKING AT ME

#MyCorona

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cute dog pic cuz she's my favorite baby right now Well, THIS is going to be interesting. And by "interesting," I mean excruciating. People, Rick and I are now trapped in a small house with three teenagers and a 21-year old male.  So essentially, four teenagers.  The fifth boy child is still away at college: his university is closed down, but he lives in a house, not a dorm, so for now, he's staying where he is. He is safer there than here in the Bay Area, where cases of coronavirus are growing. It is true that when we heard the news today that as of midnight tonight we would be sheltering in place for the next three weeks -- along with 6.7 million other Bay Area residents -- my teenagers looked at me with equal parts horror and fury.  It took me about five seconds to recognize the look in their eyes, eyes pointed AT ME.  I knew what that look meant: it meant they were pissed AT ME for the shelter in place. A tense silence hung in the air until I said: &qu

She Makes Me Happy. And Tired.

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Good Lord.  Yesterday nearly did me in. Some of you may know we got a dog for Christmas, 2018.  Ever since losing our beloved black lab, Tule, on Mother's Day 2017, most of our family has been lobbying hard for another dog.  I was the lone holdout, so when I -- as the mom and all around boss (sorry, hon) -- decided we were ready, we were finally ready. This was that special moment: Zuzu is now a little over a year old, and she is adorable and awesome and so much fun and...problematic. We take her for hour-long off-leash walks, where she frolics like a maniac with other dogs, as often as we can, and it's not enough.  She needs more.  When we got her, the people selling her told us she is part black lab, part Australian Shepard.  This may or may not be true, but she is 100% pure energy, plus another 35% neurosis.  She's a hot mess most of the time.  All that puppy energy, plus a couple of breeds with high activity quotients means we basically adopted a full-time j

Better Parenting Through Selfishness

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The other day, Elizabeth told me that a friend of hers " aspires to be like you when she's a mom ." Photo from a recent hike: I do those for myself too! Um...come again? First of all, I was not previously aware that I had made any impression whatsoever on said friend.  To be honest, I wasn't even sure that if I saw this girl somewhere without my daughter in tow, she would know who I was.  Second, what could she possibly be basing this aspiration upon? How well I pull up to the parking lot to pick Elizabeth up from soccer practice?  The food I bring to games when I miraculously remember we are on snack duty?  My mad sideline cheering skillz? Before I got too puffed up about inspiring the younger generation, I had to ask: Why, Elizabeth? Why does your friend want to be like me? Turns out, she aspires to be like me because I "do pilates" and take violin lessons and otherwise do things for myself and not solely for my children. FASCINATING! Her

Bring On the 40 Days

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Welcome, Lent. This year, I am using this season to force myself to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time now: re-establish the habit of writing. I stopped writing regularly awhile ago, and as a result, I don't know what I think about pretty much anything anymore, except that I really want the Trump presidency to come to a screeching halt.  But other than that, I can't really figure out much about life.  Writing used to help me make sense of things, and I'm hoping it will again.  Things like: Why do my teenage daughters' midriffs (and sculpted eyebrows and endless, curated selfies) bother me so much? How can one person make a stand against the divisions and rancor that are everywhere? When will I figure out how to make my iPhone serve me, rather than the other way around? Why is life so unbelievably hard?  Why is life so unbelievably beautiful?  And why is it so hard to focus on the beautiful? I used to write a ton on this blog about